Fall ball is in full swing, which, as evidenced by the smiles and spirit of the play on the field up at Springwood Park last Saturday, is a good thing.
“It’s a great thing,” one dad offered up off the cuff along the left field fence. “We are so fortunate to have a program like this right here in Parksville.”
Fortunate indeed because for most young baseball players the season is over at the end of the summer.
Parksville’s Quality Foods Royals baseball club has been offering a fall ball program of some sort since the team surfaced 17 years ago, and have included Grade 8 and 9 kids for over a decade.
For long-time Royals’ skipper Dave Wallace, who has been with the team since the start, the transition from the high performance BC Premier Baseball League — one of the most heavily scouted high school age leagues in North America — to the second season as it were, is not as big a jump as one would think.
“Not at all,” Wallace, who has always put the emphasis on development over winning, surmised. “We stress the same things (as the regular season), it’s just not as competitive. It’s more instructional… it’s just tying to encourage kids to get out and be active in a great sport.
Simply put, the fall ball program says the driving force of the BCPBL’s 2011 Organization of the Year, “just gives the kids a small taste of what the program is all about… we always say we’re trying to plant a seed for next season.
As for this year’s crop, “real pleased with the enthusiasm of the kids, and with the numbers — we had 31 register this year and the most ever show up consistently.”
On the day The News stopped by the players were soaking up the extra playing time under a warm autumn sun.
The Royals were hosting the Mariners from Victoria; Wallace pencilled in one senior, local catcher MacKenzie Parlow, and the remaining of the 17 players out made up primarily of graduating juniors as well as eight Gr. 9s and three Gr. 8s.
Watching the younger players interacting and playing alongside their older counterparts was worth the price of admission.
“They’re a little overmatched at that level, but they go in there and they compete… they weren’t intimidated, which is nice to see.”
Highlights included a great at bat by local Gr. 8 Devin Svensen who was clearly in his element.
“Great kid — he’s typical of all the young kids we’ve had out,” said Wallace. “He works hard, has a love for the game and takes instruction very well… his enthusiasm matches his smile.”
Other highlights Saturday included a spectacular stretch and grab for the out at first by graduating Jr., Eric Nigut from Bowser, in game one of the double header.
In the meantime, Saturday marked the final time the locals will take to the field against an opposing team. From now to the end of the fall ball season (Oct. 1) the players will be concentrating on a development by way of controlled scrimmages.